The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Greenland is Melting

Posted by | May 30, 2014

Gordon HamiltonDr. Gordon Hamilton of the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute presented his "Why the Arctic Matters" lecture on Wednesday evening, providing attendees with a first-hand account of his research findings on Greenland's ice sheets. He first explained that the Arctic is a system, connected to the rest of the world through its oceans. What happens in the Arctic affects life in the Gulf of Maine. His research findings are alarming.

The Arctic is warming faster than any other region in the world—at least twice as fast. The increased temperatures are melting the snow and ice. Without the reflection of the sun's heat off the snow and back into space, the heat is instead being absorbed by the ocean. This raises the temperature and melts more snow and ice.

Summer Arctic sea ice is on the road to disappearing completely as soon as 2016. This will absolutely affect polar bears, rapidly diminishing their hunting grounds and habitat. The consistency of winter Arctic sea ice is changing. Rather than thick and rigid multi-year ice that historically formed, the winter ice is now young and weak due to extreme temperatures. Instead of staying in the Arctic, this ice is being pushed out due to its lack of rigidity.

Greenland is melting. The melting of ice sheets is causing sea level rise. The ice sheets are also moving faster and calving into the ocean, further contributing to sea level rise. In 2005, the ice sheets that Gordon studied in Greenland doubled and tripled their speeds. He likened it to a conveyor belt moving ice into the ocean. A massive amount of melting is happening underneath the ice.

Gordon anticipates a one meter rise in sea level by 2100.  Twenty-five percent of the world's population lives in the coastal zone. Fifteen of the seventeen largest megacities are located on the coast, many in Asia. With sea level rise, the global economy will be affected.

The Gulf of Maine will be the area most affected by changes in the Arctic. Melting ice will move down to the Gulf of Maine. The pulse of cold fresh water will cap the surface of the Gulf and prevent the mixing of nutrients vertically through the water column, preventing zooplankton from reaching the bottom where predators like cod depend on them for survival. The lack of mixing will stress lobster populations, preventing the cold water they need from reaching greater depths and instead creating warmer temperatures at the bottom where they live.

What did program participants think of the presentation?

Excellent!

Hearing the science from the expert is invaluable.

Fascinating—based on real observations.

Solid scientific facts—rude awakening for climate change deniers.

Easy to understand and put a very complex set of studies and research into language that the non-scientist can understand, and yet also went scientifically deeper in some areas. The graphics were excellent.

Learned a lot of new information.

The next Climate Stewards evening lecture, Climate Change: Time to Get Moving, will be held in Mather Auditorium on Wednesday, July 9 from 6-7:30pm. The 2014 Climate Stewards Evening Lecture Series is funded by NOAA's Climate Stewards Education Project.

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